It took a crew more than a week to extract the clay brick pavers one by one, said Tyler Pfannenstiel, supervisor for J Corp on the replacement of 260 feet of historic Walnut Street between 12th and 13th streets.
“It was six days of pulling out every one and hand-cleaning it,” Pfannenstiel said. “Scraping all the sides to get off the tar, the dirt, the sand, and re-stacking them. It’ll be about half the time to place them back.”
The replacement work, a $79,000 project, started Aug. 28, said John Braun, public works project manager for the city of Hays.
“We had a water leak last year that washed a lot of the sand out from under the brick, and then we discovered the concrete under the brick was bad,” Braun explained as a J Corp crew poured concrete Friday morning. “Rather than just trying to patch it in we decided it would be more effective and better to do the whole thing.”
Hays Ready Mix Inc. hauled in 13 truckloads for the pour.
“It’ll be 130 yards for the whole street,” said Pfannenstiel,
The 24-foot-wide Walnut has homes on one side and the USD 489 Rockwell Administrative Center on the other. A residential area at the outer limits of the Historic Chestnut Street District, the block is part of the brick street policy that preserves the city’s original clay-fired brick streets.
The past week on Walnut, the J Corp crew pulled out 23,000 to 24,000 bricks and stacked them on pallets, but it will take 28,000 to pave the road back, Pfannenstiel said. The number is short due to a sewer line repair some years ago, after which the bricks in that spot were replaced with a concrete patch.
Because the red clay-fired brick isn’t readily available anymore, the city uses new concrete brick pavers dyed red for some of its larger projects, such as the ones laid down on Main Street in the 1990s.
Where clay-fired bricks are going back in, like on Walnut, when the city needs extra it uses brick salvaged and stockpiled from street repairs outside the preservation district, where brick was replaced with concrete or asphalt.
According to Pfannenstiel, his crew can lay 4,000 to 6,000 bricks a day on a straight pattern.
“We run a string line across every six rows, so we make sure it stays straight,” he said.
There are four-and-a-half bricks per square foot. The brick on Walnut will sit on a layer of three-quarter inches of mason sand, which will overlay the seven-inch concrete base.
J Corp, 1707 E. 10th, has been re-laying brick for the city for about a decade.
“We’ve done a lot of patch work, but over the last four years we’ve done whole block reconstructions,” Pfannenstiel said. “I’ve got a good group of guys so it goes well, everything moves smoothly.”
Out of 120 miles of street in Hays, about 11.2 miles is brick, or about 9 percent, according to Braun.
When did the original brick go in?
“Good question,” Braun said. He suspects possibly in the 1930s.
“When they put the curb and gutter in, and I don’t think the brick would have been in until then, was in the ‘30s.”
Before then the paving could have been gravel.
“Sometimes they would just take the dirt and mix raw cement in the dirt and water down and pack it and make it hard,” Braun said. “That’s how some of the original streets were done.”
Walnut should be finished by next week.
“It should be nice and smooth when they’re done,” Braun said. “I mean they’re putting all the brick back in, so it’s still going to rumble, but it won’t have the up and down bumps.”